Putin and Biden hold phone talks as NATO tensions soar

Second US-Russian presidential talks this month were expected to focus on Ukraine and the transatlantic bloc’s expansion

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden held phone talks late on Thursday. The additional call, the second one in December, comes ahead of the upcoming Russian-American security talks in Geneva.

Both Washington and Moscow had remained tight-lipped on the specific agenda of the discussion, which began late on Thursday night Moscow time.

While the White House signaled the topic of the Ukrainian standoff would be invoked, Moscow said the discussion of a comprehensive security agreement, proposed by Russia, will be on the table as well.

The Kremlin has linked the phone talks to the upcoming high-profile security talks in Geneva, scheduled for January 10, with Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that “there is a need for another telephone conversation, which would come ahead of the start of negotiations.” The upcoming negotiations will be led by senior diplomatic officials, while the leaders of the two nations are not expected to attend them.

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Putin & Biden set for Thursday phone call

Earlier this month, Putin and Biden held a virtual summit via a secure video link, discussing a wide variety of issues, ranging from cyber security to the fate of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The Ukrainian conflict and a proposed security deal on NATO’s non-expansion further to the east were the central topics of the previous talks.

Washington and its western allies have repeatedly accused Moscow of seeking to “invade” neighboring Ukraine, citing an alleged military buildup on its borders as proof.

Russia insists it has zero intent of attacking anybody, maintaining that any troop movements within its own territory are strictly its domestic business.

The comprehensive security deal proposed by Putin to be struck between Moscow and the members of the US-led NATO-bloc, has been a highly-sensitive topic in relations with Washington. While Russia has already tabled two draft documents – one for the US separately and one for the military bloc – the West has been very evasive in its reaction. The White House has not ruled out a possibility of such a deal, but said it would “never agree” to some of the proposals.

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